Tabor Opera House
308 Harrison Avenue,
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Horace Tabor became wealthy through his investments in numerous mines in Leadville. He wanted to bring culture to the city and so he built the Tabor Opera House. At that time there was no place for family entertainment. It was built in 90 days, at a cost of a reported $40,000, and opened on November 29, 1879 to a less than full house. There was a hanging in town that night and many people attended that rather than opening night when “The Serious Family” & “Who’s Who” was presented. That was one of the few times that the Opera House was not filled to capacity.
Tabor had imported patented Andrews opera chairs for his place. They were covered in plush red velvet and some are still installed in the Opera House today. Only the finest was good enough for Tabor and his millions.
The entertainment was also among the finest in the country. The opera house was on what was known as the Silver Circuit with entertainment coming from the east, stopping in Denver, Leadville and eventually to San Francisco. Many famous people of the day performed on the stage. Among them were Anna Held, Mrs. Fisk, Jack Langrish, Texas Jack and John Phillip Sousa. It has been said that Houdini also was on the stage, but no concrete proof of that has been found to date. Oscar Wilde once gave a lecture there and then was taken down in the Matchless Mine where he proceeded to out drink the miners! Others who appeared here were Modjestka, Maude Adams & Harry Lauder.
Several years ago while people were exploring in the attic, old billboards and posters were found from many years ago, having been preserved by having tile covering them. They were removed, and have now been preserved and displayed on the main floor of the Opera House behind glass and in frames for all to see.
The opera house held magic lantern shows for years and began showing movies in the late-1900’s and operated as a movie theatre known as the Elk Theatre into the 1950’s. The projection booth is still up in the balcony.
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